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Changes expected in city police budget

Body cams expected soon

LOCK HAVEN — Lock Haven council reviewed some changes coming to the city’s police department budget in 2021.

City Police Chief Kristin Smith said the department had seen the effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, including three officers undergoing self quarantine due to possible exposure to the virus. However, the department has kept on track with its yearly goals, she said.

Carrying over into next year, Smith said each officer will be equipped with a body camera.

“We’re really looking forward to implementing that. It’s a collaboration with the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department,” she said.

The 14 body cameras — one for each officer — were purchased through a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) grant in partnership with the sheriff’s department.

“It’s a fully funded grant and each officer will get a body camera at no cost to the city,” Smith said.

The cameras will be equipped in the next few months, she added.

“I’m very excited about it. I think it’ll be great for both the community and the police department,” she said.

Smith said the department has also nearly completed its policy manual updates that include changes via President Donald Trump’s executive order prohibiting the use of choke holds earlier in the year.

The 2021 preliminary police budget includes a 30 percent increase in overtime funding — $56,177. Councilman Steve Stevenson questioned the increase, noting that the city now has a fully staffed department of 14 officers.

“Every year we’ve gone over the budget for overtime but those are things that we can’t prevent. It’s because of man power issues or events happening in the city,” Smith said.

City Manager Gregory Wilson, who compiles the budget each year, further explained that he over estimates the amount the department may use in overtime.

“Just because it says that much doesn’t mean everyone is encouraged to spend that much. It’s just easier to go higher and come in under budget than it is to try and go over budget in the instance of some kind of detrimental episode,” he said.

Officers’ health insurance through Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield also saw a nearly 2 percent increase for 2021.

“This year we did see the percent to total of the coverage go up 1.5 percent which is much better than we saw last year which was 8.5 percent,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the increase is shouldered by the city with six percent of the premium being contributed by officers through its agreement with the Lock Haven Police Officers Association.

“The annual cost of health insurance, less than six percent, is what shows up in that budget line,” he said.

Wilson said officers with single person insurance will actually see a decrease while those with the “family plan” — more than one person — it’s going to be higher.

Further, Wilson said the city budgeted for a “full compliment” of officers.

“If we have a month or two where we don’t have individuals on the force and we’re down to 13 officers there’s a built-in opportunity for savings there in the budget,” he said.

The city also pays a deductible for each officer — $1,500 for an individual and $3,000 for a family plan — as well as prescriptions and medical equipment reimbursements.

Police is a huge part of the city’s personnel investment, Wilson said.

“It’s because we really put that investment into the human being themselves and their health and well being,” he said, noting that 93 percent of the budget is personnel related.

All members of council were present for Monday night’s meeting held via livestream on the city’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

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